November 11, 2010

From belly dancing to bus aisles

For two weeks now I’ve enviously watched as middle-aged women put on lace belly-baring tops and wraps around their hips with gold medallions ringing as they shake their hips impossibly fast.

From a distance, the gym’s belly dancing class looked like a lot of fun and the music seemed very cool. Last night, I tried it.

“It’s ok, don’t be shy,” said a random gym-goer as she lifted my shirt and tightly tied it in the back. Before I knew it, I had a fancy gold hip wrap on (no lace top though). Then she pointed to my feet and motioned for me to take off my shoes and then I was promptly shoved on the dance floor.

My new friend Jane, who at least 50, has been belly dancing for a while and she speaks a little English. She encouraged me along and told me that I was doing a good job.

After an hour of hearing the same song over and over again (so much for the cool music) my stomach was on fire and the instructor gave me a thumbs up. I guess that means I clumsily survived?

That was the third fitness class I’ve taken in Chinese. It’s an awkward adventure, but it’s a decent workout once I figure out what’s going on.

When Alex and I walked in to the gym yesterday, the kickboxing class was in action. The young instructor was wearing windbreaker pants with a black razorback shirt and a head set.

Yi, er, san, si (one, two, three, four)– we take control!” He’d shout. “Whoohoo! Let’s go!”

With the techno music bumping in the background, it sounded like we were in Mario Cart Live. We stared at the class with the same intensity that people stare at us with on the street. It was impossible not to laugh. We’re going to actually participate in it next week once our schedule starts to settle down a bit.

The weeks are starting to melt by; 12-hour days go by quickly now that we have a routine. Not that the routine is any more pleasant…

Two nights in a row we’ve had a two-hour commute on a sardine-can packed bus. Tonight’s ride featured Alex and I sitting on the floor of the aisle in the very back of the bus, surrounded by the same commuters we see each time we take the B4.

The commuters always smile and root for us when we try to find a seat. It’s an unspoken understanding that we’re all in for the hell ride together – we get on near the beginning of the route and no one gets off until the route is nearly over. Only the people filling the aisle switch on and off the bus as the route progresses.
Within five minutes of the ride today, someone handed us a piece of Dove chocolate, which was much appreciated given the claustrophobic filthy environment we found ourselves in.

Then a lady sitting by Alex started speaking to us in English, soon the lady who gave us the chocolate piped in too. Over the course of an hour, we started to become friends with Linda and Apple. 

We exchanged phone numbers and set a date to go see the new Harry Potter movie. They also taught us some new words in Chinese and Apple told us why she thinks Chinese men are “hot.” It was surprising and refreshing to hear “hot” coming from a Chinese woman, usually words like “handsome” or “very attractive” are used to describe other people, not “hot.” Apple definitely scored some cool points.

The ride ended with Linda giving us a 50RMB phone card, which was far too kind. We received a text message that we couldn’t read because it was all characters. Linda said our balance was low, so she generously gave us a card that will most likely last us through December.

It was nice to feel taken care of and refreshing to meet people who talked to us like equals. They weren’t in awe of us being foreigners and they weren’t prideful of their country. They were just normal, and it was awesome.

What a mediocre week it has been, and I am so incredibly appreciative for that.

Two last things: my meeting was productive, but I’m keeping hush about my decision to stay or leave until I’ve decided for sure.

And today is Singles Awareness Day in China. It literally is a holiday dedicated to all the single people in the country. I can’t decide if this is a happy holiday or a sad one, some of my students seemed depressed and others were excited.

Near the end of class, one of my students asked me if I had a boyfriend. The whole class started giggling and anxiously awaited my answer. I shook my head, “no,” and the class erupted as they excitedly shouted things to me. I couldn’t understand much of anything except for “one, one, one, one – single’s day!” Ohhh I get it, 11-11-10, singles day.

“So is this a day for me to celebrate?” I asked.

“Yes!!” the whole class shouted. Then they gave me a round of applause.

I got a damn round of applause celebrating my solitude. Awesome.

Later in the day, some of my other students invited me out to celebrate at KTV (karaoke). Regretfully, I declined.

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